Wells pulls trade request, likely to retire after 2006

Updated: March 5, 2006, 9:57 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox left-hander David Wells rescinded his trade request and said Sunday there was a "99.9 percent" chance he would retire after the upcoming season, his 19th in the majors.

David Wells

Rather than prolong the uncertainty, Wells figured that he could live with the lack of privacy in Boston for one more season and that he and his family could handle being away from their San Diego-area home.

Wells told general manager Theo Epstein about his change of heart Saturday.

"I just told him, `Listen, plan on me going north, dude.' I said I want to stay. I said I think it will be fine," Wells said. "He was all smiles and that was that."

But Wells' recounting might be "overly dramatic," Epstein said.

"It's making more of it than it was," said Epstein, who was under no obligation to trade Wells, entering the final year of his two-year contract. "It's been sort of a non-issue all along. I'm glad he feels good about staying."

At least two factors were working against the club in trade talks: Wells underwent offseason knee surgery and still must show he's healthy, and teams want to look at their younger pitchers before making a deal for a 42-year-old who wants to play only one more year.

Wells, who went 15-7 last season, is part of a deep starting corps that includes Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo. Jon Papelbon also can start.

"We'll put it together the way we think is proper," manager Terry Francona said, "and if David is excited to be a part of that, that's certainly exciting for us."

Part of that excitement is based on Wells' view of the team's potential.

"I think we're a better team this year than we were last year" when the Red Sox won the AL wild card but were swept in the division series by the Chicago White Sox, Wells said. "So if you're going to go out on top, you might as well do it with a team that you feel good with and this is it.

"I just don't plan on playing past this," he said. "It's 99.9 percent sure."

Left fielder Manny Ramirez also requested a trade in the offseason and reported to camp one day after the Feb. 28 mandatory reporting date with the team's permission. His agent, Greg Genske, said Ramirez has an open mind if the team wants to trade him. Ramirez can reject any deal because he is a 10-year veteran who spent the last five seasons with the same team.

Wells said he enjoyed pitching in Boston last season, his first with the team, and likes the passion of the fans. He's just not crazy about having them ask for autographs or take his picture when he tries to go out to shop or eat.

The lack of privacy "is the worst I've ever seen," said Wells, who has pitched with seven other teams but said he only went out after games three times last season. "I almost got in a fight on one of those times because ... I wouldn't take a picture with (someone) or whatever.

"They're great fans, but anywhere you go they want a piece of you. They want to talk shop," he said. "I love Boston. This team is great. Everything about it, it's unbelievable. It's just tough outside the park, but hey, we'll get through that."

Wells told the 25-year-old Beckett, traded from Florida in the offseason, that he would be working with an outstanding catcher, Jason Varitek.

"I told Josh that's going to be the biggest thing for you is having a good catcher back there," Wells said. "If you stay in the game six innings you're going to win 20 games, but if you're a night prowler, good luck, you're not going to be prowling. You're going to be crawling back home."

Wells has won at least 11 games and pitched at least 184 innings in 10 of the last 11 seasons.

This year his base salary is $2.5 million with additional pay for each start more than 10 to a maximum of $5 million extra if he makes at least 30 starts.

The club didn't guarantee that bonus money, "but it would be nice," he said. "I've never reconstructed my contract, ever."

Epstein said the team won't restructure the deal.

Wells had offseason surgery on his right knee and said he spent four to six weeks on crutches or in a wheelchair. He said his arm feels fine and, barring a setback to his knee, he should be ready by opening day on April 3. Schilling probably would start.

Wells plans to throw his third and final bullpen session Monday, then pitch batting practice before making his first exhibition start, probably March 12, 13 or 14.

"I feel great," he said.

Now that he's decided to stay with Boston, he can concentrate on strengthening his knee. Varitek, the team's respected captain, also contributed to his decision.

"Just the way 'Tek looked at me. He goes, 'We need to talk.' We didn't really get a chance to talk, but, knowing 'Tek and talking to him a lot last year, I kind of had an idea what was going through his mind," Wells said. "That vibe I got from him, whoa, pretty deep."

Wells has a wife and two school-age children who told him "we can tough it out" for one more season, he said.

Epstein was happy after a turbulent offseason in which he stepped down on Oct. 31 and returned Jan. 24 after aspects of his troublesome relationship with president Larry Lucchino were addressed.

"He had a smile from ear to ear. It took a lot of pressure off him," Wells said. "His eyes got real big. He went, `Wow, that's great.' He was happy as can be.

"Instead of trying to make a mess out of the whole situation, I think it's best that you just deal with it, go in with good thoughts and good goals and try to help this team win a championship."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press